Red Wine Shallot Vinaigrette

So, this week I’m making what every French child knows how to make by the age of 8. (Right before they start smoking and after they’ve been drinking wine, of course….)

Red wine vinegar, dijon, minced shallot and black pepper.
Red wine vinegar, dijon, minced shallot and black pepper.

Why do we all buy salad dressings? Sometimes when I’m on auto pilot at the grocery and find myself reaching for a bottle, I stop to think, “you idiot.”

Seriously – is there anything easier?  Make it at home – control what’s in it.

mincy mince mince
mincy mince mince


Why not try making your own?  Fresh, easy, delicious; and you probably already have all the ingredients and don’t even know it. Play with the ingredients, too – leave out the shallot, add tarragon. Or leave in the shallot and add parsley and thyme.  Or cracked green peppercorns. Whatever. Just play with your food.

Seriously wish you could smell this right now...
Seriously wish you could smell this right now…

This is a big batch – fills a whole bottle from Cost Plus. Feel free to halve or quarter it, or double and give some to the neighbors…..

And, I whisked it – but of course later remembered this great tip from Cooks Illustrated – just put everything in a jar with a lid and shake it til it’s emulsified.  Remember those Good Seasons italian dressing cruets when we were kids? Like that…..
Try it! Share how it turned out.
¾ c. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. minced shallot
3 Tbsp. dijon mustard
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp. salt
1.5 – 2 c. good oil.
In a large bowl, or blender, or 4-cup measuring cup, whisk together everything but the oil.
While you’re still whisking, slowly drizzle in the oil until you get an emulsion. (It will thicken, and become dull instead of shiny.)
Keeps in the fridge for at least a week.
Play with the ingredients, too – leave out the shallot, add tarragon. Or leave in the shallot and parsley and thyme. Or cracked green peppercorns.
For the oil, I like to go half plain veg oil and half extra virgin olive oil. I think going all olive overpowers this. Save that for the balsamic vinaigrettes – they can handle it.
Serving size is 2Tbsp – or 1oz.

Servings 24
Calories 28
Fat 28 g
Sodium 47 mg
Carbs 0 g
Protein 0 g

Poolish what? Bread. Again.

Now, remember I warned you I was obsessed with finding a good recipe.  I have. This blog is amazing.


 It’s a pain to read through the first time, but the recipe is actually pretty easy.  I am discovering that the secret to the kind of bread I like is something called a “pre-ferment”, and I’ve been playing with the poolish kind. 


If you have a kitchen aide, this is really easy.  You just need to be home on a Saturday til about midday.  

You just read the recipe, right? Now, of course I cheat. Because Karen.  I make the poolish in the bowl of the Kitchen Aide Friday afternoon when I get home from work, and cover it with wax paper and a bread towel.  When I wake up Saturday, I pop it on the mixer with the bread hook and follow the steps.  Except, when she says to pull and fold the dough, I give it a spin for thirty seconds in the bowl, and just toss the bread towel over the mixer between times.  Why? Because it’s much neater, and I don’t have to either a) leave my counter crusted in flour for four hours, or b) clean the damn thing off every 45 minutes for four hours. 


This recipe makes a nice loaf that has a firm, moist inside and nice crust. I throw the bread towel over the loaves as soon as they come out of the oven so the crust isn’t too too hard.  Give John Frum’s blog a read – he has an amazing amount of knowledge. 

If you try it out, share your experience!


King Cake! Mardi Gras Bonus!

Happy Mardi Gras, Ya’ll!KingCake5med

Next to summer vacation, this is when I miss the classroom the most. Krewes. Shoebox floats. Parades. Float races. Crap shoot gumbo. And King Cake.

For years I used Emeril’s recipe. And it was a pain in the ass; especially because I made at least six cakes every year (one for each class, and of course one for Himself to take to work.)



This year, I saw a new recipe.  She just throws everything together in the bowl. The filling is cinnamon and powdered sugar! Tried it – and it’s awesome. Truly streamlined and incredibly delicious. New tradition, here we come. 

Easy peasy
Easy peasy

For the cake
4 – 5 c. AP flour
1/2 c. sugar
1.5 tsp salt
4.5 tsp yeast (or two pkgs.)
3/4 c. whole milk or 1/2 & 1/2
1/2 c. warm tap water
2 eggs @ room temp
1/2 c. unsalted butter, at room temp
zest of half an orange or tangelo
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
For the filling
2 Tbsp. melted butter
4 Tbsp. powdered sugar, mixed with
3 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
For the egg wash
1 egg mixed with 2 Tbsp milk.
For the glaze
2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla sugar, or a few drops of vanilla extract
zest from the other half of the orange
enough juice from the orange to make the glaze
For the decorations
Yellow, green, purple sprinkle sugars
plastic baby
In your large mixing bowl (or your mixer bowl), put all the dry ingredients (start w/ 4 c. flour) and give them a quick whirl.
Spray another large mixing bowl with cooking spray.
Microwave your milk for 30 seconds, then use a candy thermometer to make sure it is not over 115*.
Pour the milk, room temp eggs and butter, and water in to the dry ingredients.
Stir to combine, then knead by hand (10 min) or with your dough hook (5 mins).
You should have a very elastic, sticky dough. (You may need to a *little* more flour. Avoid the temptation to over flour, though. It’s brioche. It’s sticky, but should still pull away from the counter or the bowl’s sides.)
Ball up the dough, and put it in the greased bowl.
Cover the bowl with waxed paper and then a cloth and let proof until double. (This took an hour in my oven on proof; on the counter it might be about and hour and a half)
At the end of the time, flour your board and dump the dough on it.
Roll it in to a rectangle about 18″ x 24″, testing to make sure it isn’t sticking to your board.
Spread the melted butter evenly over the whole thing, then sprinkle with the powdered sugar/cinnamon.mixture.
Take a pizza roller, and slice the dough longways in to three long strips.
Roll each strip longways in to a tube, as if you were making cinnamon rolls.
Braid the three strips.
Place your braid on a parchment-lined baking sheet, connecting the ends and making a circle or oval shape.
Cover back with that wax paper and towel, and proof until double again (about 45 mins.)
Once double, preheat your oven to 350*.
Bake the cake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown and interior temp is 200*.
Cool. Flip it over, slide the baby in the bottom at one of the braid seams. Flip it back.
Happy Mardi Gras

Servings 20
Calories 608
Fat 8 g
Sodium 196 mg
Carbs 118 g
Protein 15 g

Chorizo Lentil Soup

“Hmmm….how do I photograph lentils to make them look appetizing?” Another item to file in the “shit I never thought I’d hear myself say” folder.  But, seriously. How?


I guess you are going to have to take my word for it.  In the winter I am often obsessed with an italian sausage and lentil soup created by that genius Beth at Budget Bytes.  It was cold. Any rainy. And a hearty bowl sounded just perfect! Plus, I’ve been trying to find that “just right” bread recipe……it was destiny.  (More on the bread next week…)


Billy bought some chorizo for our breakfast mini omelettes, and I started to think how good that would taste with lentils. (The chorizo, you guys, not the omelettes.) So, poof! Soup!  Make some. It’s fairly quick and easy. Himself can’t have carrots anymore, so the base is stock, onion and celery only.  Feel free to add two peeled carrots sliced for soup.  And, this does work with Soyrizo – you just have to add it at the end with the spinach.


This is made with Mexican style chorizo, by the way, not the Spanish kind. Although that would also be very tasty. And, for chrissakes, get the pork.  Unless you go the soyrizo route – but we’ve already talked about that.  As a reformed vegetarian, I can’t bitch now.

 This soup is awesome. And easily serves four very hungry people, add some good bread and salad and it’s show time.
½ # pork chorizo, cooked. Use the good kind that’s lean. It makes a difference. (or, use Soyrizo)
½ # lentils. I used green, but yellow or orange would be tasty if creamier.
½ white onion, in ½” dice
3 stalks of celery, sliced in soup chunk size
2 quarts chicken or pork stock
½ package frozen chopped spinach
S&P to taste
Wash and pick through the lentils. Rocks and bad bits are rare these days, but not impossible.
In a large stock pot, brown the meat. If you didn’t listen and got greasy chorizo, drain it. Toss in the veg and sauté with the meat for a couple minutes. Pour in the lentils and the stock. Simmer about an hour. (Or on low in the crock pot while you’re at work. If you use a crock pot, only use 1.5 qts stock). Ten minutes before serving, take the stick blender to half the pot. This breaks ups some of the lentils and thickens the soup. Then, add the spinach give it a stir and set the dinner table. (If you’re going the Soyrizo route, add it now.)
Serve with lime and hot sauce. Or a sprinkle of smoked paprika and sliced bitter olives. Or with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. You get the idea. You are going to LOVE this.

Servings 4
Calories 228
Fat 9 g
Sodium 830 mg
Carbs 21 g
Protein 16 g

So about that Four Hour Baguette….

I’ve been seeing this puppy hopping about on Pinterest. Four hour baguette! The pictures looked so credible – surely it must be true! So easy! So fast!

How can you resist bread, hot from the oven?
How can you resist bread, hot from the oven?



This was some delicious white bread. But, francophile with a respectable amount of Parisian experience that I am, I simply cannot call this a baguette.  A baguette is more than a shape – it’s a specific weight, and crust, and texture.  And you can’t achieve those things in four hours, which I knew on the inside when I decided to try the recipe.  But hope springing eternal and all that crap.


Bread snobbery aside, this is a really good bread.  We enjoyed it with some chorizo lentil soup. Then gave lots to the neighbors so it wasn’t in the house.

Try it. Keep the dough a little stickier than your comfort level, though.  

Yes, we ate that entire loaf. Go ahead, judge me.
Yes, we ate that entire loaf. Go ahead, judge me.

Find the recipe here. 

And, of course, this opens the door to Karen’s Quest for the Perfect Home Baguette…… just don’t tell Bill.